Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's more than a wee bit daft

Scotch, haggis don't belong in cans

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As a newspaper professional, I like to think of myself as the sort of open-minded journalist who sees both sides of every issue.

And anyone who says anything different is a dirty rotten liar!

I'm especially open-minded when it comes to scientific advances in the vital area of alcoholic beverages. For example, I applaud the geniuses who started marketing wine in boxes and plastic bottles and those Tetra Pak containers.

What I'm trying to say here is that I realize you cannot hold back the hands of time, and I fully support using technology to make the world a better place for consumers, but you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere.

Where do I draw mine? I'll tell you where. When it comes to putting Scotch whisky in -- get ready to be deeply offended -- a can.

I wish I was kidding about this, but I am not. A Panama-based company called Scottish Spirits made headlines around the world last week when it unveiled a 12-ounce aluminum container the size of a standard beer can that holds eight shots of blended whisky.

Eight shots of whisky! In a pop-top beer can! Is that something the world has been waiting for, or what? Those annoying glass bottles just don't keep whisky as fresh as we'd like, do they? I mean who hasn't been at a party, turned to the person next to them and whispered: "Great party, but, golly, I wish they had canned whisky!"

According to several news stories I have just read, Scottish Spirits is marketing its tinned whisky as the perfect option for "outdoor drinkers." Here's a quote from CEO Manish Panshal: "It's lightweight and portable and entirely recyclable, which is good news. It will be one of the hot picks for any outdoor activities."

Makes perfect ecological sense to me. Any outdoor activity would be enhanced by this innovation. Imagine you and your beloved standing, hand in hand, on a beach in Hawaii.

You: "What a beautiful sunset!"

Your beloved: "Oh, yes, sweetheart. Nothing could make this moment sweeter."

You: "Oh, yeah? Try this canned whisky."

Your beloved: "Kiss me, you romantic fool!"

The truth is, some things -- baked beans, SpaghettiOs, Justin Bieber -- are a lot better when kept in cans, but Scotch whisky isn't one of them.

In fact, whisky in a can could not have been introduced at a worse time. I say this because tomorrow is Robbie Burns Day, the sacred time when Scottish persons around the world stop arguing long enough to celebrate the birth of a legendary poet whose works most of us have never read, and who, as far as I can tell, is currently dead.

Like most Canadians of Scottish heritage, I am more Scottish than anyone currently living in Scotland. No one is more passionate about the Old Country than someone who, in fact, has never been to the Old Country.

So I think I speak for everyone who has ever considered plastering their rec room with tartan wallpaper when I say putting whisky in a can is blasphemy. Whisky isn't just Scotland's national tipple; it's our history distilled to its very essence.

It is the most offensive thing possible to put in a can. Unless, of course, you are talking about haggis, the national dish of Scotland. For the record, haggis is a "pudding" composed of all the disgusting things you find inside a sheep, mixed with onions and oatmeal, then simmered inside the sheep's stomach.

What does it taste like? Who knows? No Scottish person in their right mind would eat haggis. It's something served to unsuspecting tourists as a prank. Whisky was first invented just to kill the taste of haggis.

Given my heritage, you can imagine how excited I was just before Christmas when I stumbled on a can of "Scottish Haggis" while shopping at a local specialty food store.

The list of ingredients on the can includes "lamb heart, pork fat, lamb liver" and, my favourite, something called "flavours." I stuffed it in the Christmas stocking belonging to my college-age son, who has played the bagpipes for the last 14 years.

I'll never forget the look on his face Christmas morning when he held the can up and said: "This is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen!"

It may be a while before we can buy canned whisky in this country, but somewhere in the back of our pantry there's a can of sheep's innards my bagpiping son proudly insists he will never open in a million years.

And I'm OK with that. Because it's important to preserve your heritage.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2011 A2

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